October 31, 2021
1 Kings 5: 1-5; 8: 1-13
Today’s passage covers the beginning of the construction of the temple in Jerusalem and later, its dedication.
David was too busy battling the nation’s enemies to build the temple, so it fell to his son, Solomon. The problem is that Solomon has the workforce … and their tax dollars … but he doesn’t have some of the materials needed for such a massive undertaking. So, there are deals that have to be made in order to make the magnificent structure a reality.
While it’s interesting to hear that the kings of other regions co-operated to construct the temple, the importance of today’s passage is Solomon’s declaration of his intention:
“… I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God.”
… for the NAME of the Lord my God.
Something that merits the joy displayed at the dedication of the temple in chapter 8 of 1 Kings.
Articles that were part of the people’s past worship life were installed in the new building … jars that carried the oil … the meeting tent and the ark. The ark contained the tablets of the Torah … the word of God to the people.
The temple was Solomon’s attempt to affirm God’s place in the world.
Solomon wanted to construct a place where God could be worshipped and praised, without the people believing it was a place where God remained and on-call when needed. God can’t be contained within such walls.
Solomon’s declaration was essentially about praise and prayer to a powerful God. He instructs Israel to worship a god who keeps his covenant of love, who hears our prayers, who sets things right and who offers forgiveness.
Solomon’s declaration also meant that people weren’t to think that God was to be found in some remote, lofty location … far removed from the people.
The temple would be a place where God’s presence could be felt and experienced as a community.
The temple would become the focus of Israel’s worship life … where the community could come together and it was a structure that would symbolize God’s people in the world.
Just consider how likely people are to picture the sanctuary’s 50-foot sweeping roof when you tell them you’re a Lutheran in Owen Sound and you get the idea.
Still, building the temple and all the infrastructure that it involved … meant saddling the people with a heavy tax burden that would outlive Solomon. It wasn’t the only time taxes and fees were used to pay for such a project.
Centuries later, the crux of Martin Luther’s call to reform the church was its use of indulgences … the sale of grace to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Today is Reformation Sunday.
It’s when we commemorate Luther’s actions that led to the formation of the Reformation Movement.
The use of indulgences was just one of the problems Luther had with the church … he also had trouble with some of the worship practices … such as the sacrament of communion being reserved for the clergy and some select members of the community and parts of the service being conducted behind a screen at the front of the sanctuary and out of the people’s sight.
Since the people were uneducated they relied on the priest or other learned members of the clergy to recite and interpret the Bible for them … this was one of the reasons why Luther wanted an education system that included the poor and common people of the community.
Large chunks of the worshipping community were excluded from full participation in the worship life of the church.
Luther saw a church that needed to re-form … that’s reform with a hyphen … and make the people full grace-filled participants in its life.
Solomon’s intention for the temple and Luther’s intention for the church should be front-of-mind for us today and going forward.
We look around the sanctuary as we languish in the current wave of the pandemic … and, honestly, I’ve lost count of what wave it is … and we wonder where the people are … we wonder if they’ll return … if they’ll return if we loosen the health protocols a bit … a little more music and a little less restrictions perhaps … or wonder if all the other options available to them is too strong a lure for them to spend time in worship with their faith community.
We wonder if those not with us this morning have forgotten the power … the strength … the commitment … that worshipping as a community affords … we wonder if they no longer recognize that effective ministry flows from that worship life.
Perhaps, we need to have a different perspective … a different language … as we move forward … that rather than think of it as church attendance and all the personal baggage that may come with it … we think of it as WORSHIP attendance … when we can thank … praise … and be in awe of God’s unconditional love … as a priestly community of believers.
Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians … and the worshipping community adapted … re-formed .. and survived. The replacement temples all eventually fell … and … each time .. the worshipping community adapted … re-formed … and survived …. and even flourished.
As we move through Re-formation Sunday and through the pandemic-induced time of re-forming … maybe we should make sure the hyphens are in place … and re-connect with one another and re-new our worship and missional life together.